In behind-the-scenes haggling over a buffer zone along the Israeli-Syrian border, Russia has agreed to keep Hezbollah away from Israel, but not as far as Israel has demanded, according to Arab sources cited by The Jerusalem Post on Wednesday.
Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu reportedly told Israeli officials that their request for a 25-mile buffer zone was unrealistic, and could not guarantee a buffer of more than about eight to ten miles from the Israeli side of the Golan Heights.
Shoigu noted that Iranian and Hezbollah forces have kept a distance from the border since the Russian military entered Syria, and so he considered the Israeli request was “exaggerated” and “superfluous,” according to a report in Asharq al-Awsat.
Maj. Gen. (Ret.) Israel Ziv, a former head of operations in the IDF’s General Staff, told the Media Line that Moscow can enforce a no-go zone on Iran and its proxies in Syria.
“It is not a black and white situation, but the level of Iranian involvement is in the hands of the Russians,” he said. “For Moscow, kicking out Tehran entirely is not an option, but limiting its activity serves its interest, as this allows Putin to maintain leverage over the U.S. as well as regional countries.”
“Iranian proxies are totally free to act in Syria and this goes against the Russian desire to create order. Putin wants to be the sole power in the country and this too is reason to minimize Iran’s influence,” Ziv added.
The consensus at this point is that escalation is unlikely, he said, given that none of the principals are desirous of a major conflict involving Israel.